Democrats plan Saturday vote to prop up Postal Service
House Democrats will call the chamber back to Washington Saturday to vote on legislation to block recently implemented cost-cutting measures at the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) — and ensure the agency can handle a potential flood of mail-in ballots around November’s elections.
The move, announced by Democratic leaders on a call with their caucus Monday morning, comes days after the Postal Service warned states that it might not be able to deliver ballots to election offices in time to be counted.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told Democrats on the call that the legislation is still being finalized, but members have been told formally to expect to vote on it Saturday morning.
Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced in a letter to Democrats on Sunday that she is eyeing a vote on a bill introduced by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) that would prevent the USPS from making any changes to operations that it had in place as of January while the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing. The bill is also expected to include $25 billion in funding for the USPS, which was an amount recommended by the agency’s board of governors and included in House Democrats’ coronavirus relief bill in May, a Democratic aide confirmed.
Separately, Maloney announced in a statement on Monday that Postmaster General Louis DeJoy and Robert Duncan, the chairman of the USPS Board of Governors, have agreed to testify before the Oversight panel next Monday about recently implemented cost-cutting measures that have resulted in delayed mail delivery.
“The American people want their mail, medicines, and mail-in ballots delivered in a timely way, and they certainly do not want drastic changes and delays in the midst of a global pandemic just months before the election,” Maloney said.
DeJoy, a major Republican donor, had stirred controversy in recent weeks for adopting a number of changes at the beleaguered Postal Service, including steps to eliminate employee overtime and remove some mail-sorting machines.
Supporters maintain those are common-sense strategies designed to help the agency balance budgets. But critics contend there are more nefarious motivations, noting that DeJoy has significant investments in some of the USPS’s top competitors.
President Trump has also repeatedly tried to sow doubt in the reliability of voting by mail, despite using that method himself to vote absentee in Florida this year.
Last week, Trump initially suggested he opposed providing funding for the USPS because it would help allow for universal mail-in voting in November. But he later said that he would sign legislation providing emergency funding for the Postal Service if Democrats make concessions on other issues in a coronavirus relief package.
The rare weekend session will come as that battle is heating up between the Trump administration and Democrats on Capitol Hill.
Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) have long warned that the financial strain on the USPS poses a threat to November’s elections, particularly during a global health crisis when millions of voters may want to avoid in-person voting.
In the $2.2 trillion CARES Act, enacted in March, they secured roughly $400 million to help states prepare for an unusual election. House Democrats also passed a $3 trillion relief package in May that included an additional $25 billion for the USPS and another $3.6 billion for states to bolster election systems.
Republicans have rejected much of the request, but the White House negotiators offered $10 billion for the Postal Service as part of their recent talks with Pelosi and Schumer over a fifth round of relief.
White House chief of staff Mark Meadows has called for USPS funding to be included with other coronavirus relief measures, saying Monday that Trump is “willing to provide money for the Post Office as long as it is included in some other skinny measure if we cannot agree to a larger deal.”
Pelosi announced Sunday in a “Dear Colleague” letter that she would be interrupting the House’s long summer recess to bring the chamber back to Washington to vote on the Maloney bill.
Until now, the House wasn’t scheduled to return to Washington until the week after Labor Day.
“In a time of a pandemic, the Postal Service is Election Central,” Pelosi wrote. “Americans should not have to choose between their health and their vote.”
Aside from voting by mail, many states also allow for early in-person voting so that people can avoid potential lines on Election Day. Voters also often have the option of receiving a ballot in the mail and then dropping it off in person at the local election office or designated drop box ahead of Election Day.
Saturday’s vote will be sandwiched between the two party conventions to accommodate lawmakers’ participation in the events. The Democratic convention is set to begin Monday evening, while the GOP convention will begin next Monday.
It’s unclear if the GOP-controlled Senate will act on any legislation related to the USPS this month. The upper chamber recessed last week, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) suggested Monday that he’s in no rush to return to Washington.
“The Postal Service is going to be just fine,” he told a local Kentucky news outlet.
Rep. James Comer (Ky.), the top Republican on the Oversight and Reform Committee, also downplayed the changes at the Postal Service and accused Democrats of pushing a “conspiracy theory.”
At the same time, Comer said that “regardless of how Americans choose to vote in the 2020 election, they must have confidence that their vote counts.”
“If Americans do choose to vote by mail, we all agree that ballots must be fairly delivered by the Postal Service in a timely manner to the American people,” Comer said.
— Jordain Carney contributed. Updated at 3:41 p.m.
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